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Contemporary thinking with regard to how the federal and state governments plan to build our national capabilities to reduce, reuse and recycle the goods and products we no longer need into new products, is commonly referred to as developing a ‘circular economy’. Such contemporary thinking is already practiced in other parts of the world such as Denmark, Scotland and Japan.
A major driver of the circular economy in Australia is the National Waste Policy, first published in 2009 and updated in 2018. The policy identifies five overarching principles underpinning waste management in a circular economy, which include:
In addition to the 2018 National Waste Policy, the National Waste Policy Action Plan 2019 was developed. This action plan aims to guide continuing collaboration between all levels of governments, business and industry and encourages everyone to implement tailored solutions in response to local and regional circumstances.
The National Waste Policy 2018 and the associated action plan are high level strategic documents covering a range of industries. To assist the implementation of its principles and aims, Australian Environment Ministers meet twice a year to discuss waste management, among other environmental matters. These meetings often result in waste and recycling targets being set by the states and territories.
Waste avoidance and recycling is likely to become a bigger issue over the next decade, and builders, trades and suppliers will need to re-educate and re-engineer their processes to achieve a sensible outcome. While life-cycle analysis of products is still in its infancy it is essential that appropriate support is provided to the residential building industry to lead the way in new innovations and technologies that address the pressure for product recycling and reuse.